Fifth Century–Roasted Barley Bread

Two loaves of roasted barley bread

Mixed: 8:45 pm

Molded: 1:30 pm next day

Baked: 3:45 pm

Gave one loaf to the Dunn’s–ate the other

Ever since visiting Telegraph Brewery, here in Santa Barbara, I’ve been wanting to use the rest of the spent barley that was scooped out of that very cool copper cooking contraption. It’s one of those impressive machines that the brewers in the fifth century would have given many cows and sheep for. My first use of the barley came straight from the copper tub and I mixed it into my dough, the barley still warm and plump and sweet from being boiled. Using the barley this way was delicious in the bread–it added flavor, texture and taste, and I would bake bread again and again like this if I lived down the road from the brewery and could sneak over for scoops on the sly. I posted about this bread a week or so ago.

Another probable fifth century use for the spent barley I’ve been thinking about is–drying, then roasting, then grinding the barley, to mix in with the wheat flour. It doesn’t sound that outlandish, does it? Roasting is not a new idea–we roast tea leaves and coffee beans and veggies, and the Ancient Celts were formidable roasters–it was their festal and favorite way of cooking meat. I don’t think I’m too far off thinking that maybe some baker cousin of Saint Brigid had red hair, was a bit odd like I am, and roasted barley on occasion to put in her bread.

I set to work.

First I spread the plump and boiled barley out on a cookie sheet. The oven had been used that evening, so once it cooled I put the sheet of barley inside to dry over night. It dried for about 18 hours before I cranked up the oven to broil, then placed the barley back in for three minutes.

I’m famous in this house for burning things. The oven was just dinging three minutes when I pulled the smoking tray out. We ran for the doors and windows so the smoke alarm didn’t sound. Sure enough, the barley in the middle portion of the cookie sheet was burnt. Oh, well. I decided that in the fifth century, folks probably burned things too. So I let the barley cool, then scooped half of it into my small, wooden mortar.

I ground the pestle around for a long while–maybe even 15 minutes–having to switch back and forth between hands, until the mix became as fine as I could make it. Then I called my effervescent daughter, spooned the second half of the barley from the tray into the mortar, and asked her to have at it.

Once the mix was finished, I couldn’t resist smelling it. My nose just wandered that way… I wanted to brew it, and taste it. It reminded me of a roasted green tea that I like to drink– Hoji-cha–and it even smelled a bit like coffee.

On to the bread. This was to be as fifth century as I could make it. Here’s my mix:

3 cups of unbleached white, wheat flour

1/3 cup of roasted and hand ground barley

2 tablespoons of Telegraph yeasties

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (not Celtic, though. I saw some at the store and it was too pricey for me at $9/container)

1 1/2 cups well water (just kidding–no wells around here. Used the cool water out of the filtered faucet…)

The bread behaved beautifully. I’m convinced that this brewer’s yeast direction is not only a fifth century thing to do, but that we twenty tenners could learn a lesson or two about being nice to the ale makers. Instant yeast is expensive, and both the straight yeast that is siphoned off the beer tanks, and the brewer’s yeast starter I’ve created (liquid brewer’s yeast mixed with flour) have worked beautifully with the no-knead, pain a la Suzanne, method. Yes, befriend a brewer. Not only could you swap loaves of bread for glasses of ale, and maybe swap some stories while you’re at it, but both the spent barley and the yeast are worth having in your fridge on baking day…

So, the roasted barley in the bread made it almost black. I was surprised at the color; I didn’t expect 1/3 cup of ground barley to make such an impact.

And the flavor was…good… but odd. Perfect toasted, with butter and something sweet, like pomegranate jam, or cinnamon sugar, but not a good bread for a potluck or to bring as a hostess gift. Unless you’re bringing it through a time warp, back to Saint Brigid and her household. I bet she’d love this creative loaf. And while you’re taking a loaf of roasted barley bread back to Saint Brigid, go ahead and take back one of those copper beer boilers, too. You could set up shop brewing, and I could set up shop baking, and we’d be friends, having a good ole time, and you’d gladly let me slyly scoop your warm spent barley out of your copper pot.

Just think. No cell phones. No flat screens TVs and Superbowl Sundays. No carpooling in our Volvos. Instead there’d be brewers, and bakers, and candlestick makers, and chieftains trying to marry you off to poets, and bards strumming away, singing around the campfire… It might be cold and rainy at times. And the houses might be smoky (from my roasting efforts!). But we could settle in Kildare, and cheer on the monks illuminating the manuscripts, and sing with the nuns in the Cathedral, and share the work of our hands with a growing community of those fun-loving, crazy Irish, who, at that time, still went to war dressed in not much more than their swords and shields…

Amazing where a story on roasting barley can lead you…

Cheers!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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3 thoughts on “Fifth Century–Roasted Barley Bread

  1. My priest forwarded your newsletter to me last week as my saint name is Brigid. I will never forgive him. I *love* your blog and I love making bread! Need to call our local brewery in Kansas City (Boulevard) for some of their leftovers.

    • Kim–welcome! This seems to be my season for all things baking and I’m having such fun… So glad you stumbled over here. I can’t wait to know more about you.

      Brigid… What a wonderful patron. Bless you. She has widened my view, helped me grow, and been an amazing inspiration to me and my family… Just made some crosses yesterday and fumbled, and bumbled my way through, but loved it. I’ll be posting that soon.

      Hoping to hear from you again–yes, and go make friends with that brewer!

  2. Lovely looking bread! You are so right the synergy between brewers and bakers goes back a long way, I wonder which came first, the ale or the bread? I read something a long time ago which said that it was women who made the ale originally and then the job was taken away from them when someone decided to put a tax on it and it became man’s work, don’t know if it’s true but it’s an interesting thought…..

    …by coincidence I am making a bread with roasted barley malt tomorrow morning, a bread baking group are working their way slowly and mellowly through’ Bread’ and Beer bread with roasted barley malt’ is one of our breads for June. Your post was automatically generated on my friend’s blog and I couldn’t resist popping over to see what it was all about 🙂

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